It’s an incredible time to be building an enterprise software company. So many of the old problems and frustrations with this market are changing fast: purchasing gatekeepers are losing their power, buyers are valuing elegant interfaces, design is coming into play in the sales cycle (which is shrinking), people are expecting applications that require no training, previously complicated requirements such as authentication are being commoditized—the entire landscape is changing.
We’ve been predicting this massive disruption in the enterprise market and have been building a company in anticipation of a new order of enterprise software. We think we’re not alone. Slack had a great launch last month, and we’ll start seeing many more endeavors like this: a thoughtfully designed app attacking a specific portion of the enterprise market with consumer software sensibilities and an eye for design. It’s about time.
And at Kindling we think it’s our time. In fact, we’ve made it our mission:
To modernize the enterprise experience with software people enjoy using.
We believe that recognizing a need and making something people want isn’t good enough—the digital world we experience every day is so rich, why shouldn’t our work experience also be rich? The bar for software is being raised so quickly that in order to succeed in your particular slice of the market you need to create something people actually enjoy using.
Once people enjoy using your product, they’ll tell others about it. People love sharing things they enjoy; delight someone in a surprising place and they’re usually happy to tell others about it. And when someone who enjoys using your product changes jobs, they’ll make sure it comes with them to their new place of work. As has been shown time and time again, this is the most effective form of marketing. Software is moving toward a reality in which you won’t be able to Google Ad-spend or brute-force your way to dominance like you could in the past, you’ll have to earn your market with great product and exceptional customer service.
And we don’t think those things are created in a vacuum. In order to make something people enjoy using, we’ve focused first on building an organization where people enjoy working.
The old tropes of startup culture—free food, kegerators, foosball tables (no disrespect to those awesome things)—aren’t about culture at all. Awesome designers won’t stay at a place for the seldom-used foosball table, they’ll stay for the nature of the work they’re doing and how connected they personally feel to the mission. Those are the two most important aspects of culture, everything else layers on top.
I’ve noticed something throughout my career, that by observing and talking to the people with whom you work or who work for you, you can provide them opportunities to work on what they’re most passionate about. When you pair up a passionate person with work to be done, magical productivity is possible. You have a designer who is interested in learning more front-end programming? Invest in this. You have a salesperson who keeps working her way into your QA process? Allow for this. That person will not only do better at “their job” by having a greater context for the overall offering and company, but their motivation will go through the roof.
Why? When you encourage people to work in the areas that interest them most and most engage their passions, they will enjoy their work. I can tell you to mow the lawn, or I can stand back and watch you plant flowers until it’s nightfall. Flowers.
The other crucial cultural factor is each team member’s belief in the mission. So… do you have a mission? Do you use it as a guide to decisions and action, or is it just a nice phrase cooked up as a marketing vehicle? People working towards a collective, shared mission on the things they’re passionate about can move mountains. At Kindling, we believe in our mission.
Enjoy the Company You Keep
I’ve always been drawn to Conway’s Law, which states that “organizations which design systems[…] are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.”
With Conway’s Law in mind, is it at all surprising that Enterprise Software has looked like this for the last 20 years? Huge, sprawling, complex enterprises creating huge, sprawling, complex software. And of all the things changing fast in the enterprise software market, this is the most meaningful—small, lean, design-driven teams can now go after this market, which they were previously locked out from.
So let’s modify Conway’s Law slightly, and say that in order to build software that people enjoy using, you first have to build an organization where people enjoy working. If you want to join us in our mission—we’re hiring.